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My Musings (listed in reverse order)

Will, Max and a Tamworth

There are some beautiful writings about and I wish I were sufficiently clever to produce some of my own. I am not, so I have to make do with using others. I usually try to remember the good ones and store them for use at a later date. I have just finished reading a crime thriller in which there was a really good put-down that I enjoyed. The writer was describing one of the characters who was a fat Scotsman with red hair. He was a bit of a slob and the quote from his girl friend when she dumped him was: "If I had wanted a ginger pig I would have bought a Tamworth." You see, I thought that was brilliant but try as I might I cannot think that I could ever get to use it. What a waste!

On this weekend which, apparently, is the anniversary of Shakespeare's death I thought I would throw in my twopennies worth. I never had any time for the great bard and apart from the the odd quotation, 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day' etc. etc., I find it a confusion of outdated mumbo jumbo. I realize that I am pretty far out on my own with this thought but alas we are what we are.

I prefer to quote, as I have on many occasions, someone like Max Ehrmann whose most famous piece, Desiderata, is a constant inspiration. To me it is like a personal code of conduct and I try to roughly abide by it... however, I generally fail miserably. I thought I would take a relatively light hearted journey through Desiderata and try to explain my thinking of what each line means personally. The full undoctored version of this poem is at the end.

Desiderata - Doctored

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

I have used this line, mostly in my head, quite a bit since I returned from Spain. I often used to go wandering up on the High Sierra, totally alone with only my thoughts for company. There is little noise up there and on the peaks, with the total silence and the stunning views, it is easy to sit, contemplate and generally be at peace with the world. Since coming back to this 'Sceptred Isle' with the hustle and bustle of modern life as well as the ignorance and unawareness of everybody around you I have used those memories to try and transport myself, not only to the places but the state of mind. Very Zen Smith, this is encouraging.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

This is a toughy! The trouble is there are always people that you just cannot stand and it follows that to be on good terms with them is a real tongue biting job. I guess the best you can do is not to be rude or insulting. Basically this is one of my failures. Could do better!

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

I speak my truth OK but quietly and clearly? Nah. If I am talking to one of those arseholes I am supposed to be on good terms with, forget it. I rant and rave and I don't give a shit if they are dull or ignorant, I am not interested in their story. All I can say in my defence is that I know I should be. Another failure! Could do alot better!

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

I just love the language of this one. We have all met these people have we not and it is not difficult to achieve the intent. However, if you cannot avoid them you should be on good terms with them even if they are dull and ignorant. No way Jóse! Meet the bastards head on and prove that you can be just as agressive as them. Well, that is one way but I have trained yours truly over the years to, when I cannot avoid one of these dispicable morons, to say to myself "You are a vexation to my spirit." Inwardly that always makes me smile. Try it and I bet you have an inward chuckle as well. Keep up the good work.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

As a youngster I had difficulty with this one. It did not take me long, when I joined the military, to realise that there is always someone bigger, stronger or more clever than you. I have the broken bones to prove it. I left school thinking I was a tough guy and could conquer the world but very soon came to acknowledge that I was just average at many things and below average at many more. Over the years I have learnt that it is not the winning, it is the taking part. Some of the most enjoyable games of rugby I played were when we lost. That is not to say that each and every one of the team did not try their best and go out to win. We went out there and played to the best of our ability and when we left the field the opposition knew that they had been in a contest. They were just better than us. The people who attempt to win whatever the cost are also a vexation to my spirit and I am damned if I will be on good terms with them either. Don't slip back into your old ways Smith.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Was it Friedrich Nietzsche who said something like: "Without the pain of the climb you won't experience the exhilaration of the summit." I have looked on the internet and cannot find it. If he didn't say it he should have. Regardless, to me that just about sums up enjoying your achievements. If they come too easily you don't appreciate them. Try to get some satisfaction from the journey as well as arriving. I have manage to mix up a few quotations and metaphors there but you know what I mean. Take a B+.

Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

I try, I try but as a retired old fartie it is sometimes difficult to find a reason to get up in the morning. Having said that I have recently gone back to work for my old company, just doing some humble programming not any of the managerial stuff, and that has given me a new lease of life. That skill I acquired during my working life has been a real valued possession and I never cease to get a sense of achievement from it. Keep up the good work.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

Well, I am good at spotting a shyster or a con man and quickly get shot of them but when it comes to my personal affairs I generally manage to trick myself into making the wrong decision. Could do alot better.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

There are so many genuinely good people about, even I know a few and I am an unsociable bastard. Oh I wish I were one - a good person that is. I do strive to be but mostly my true self comes out. Nevertheless, we must all have aspirations. You know you can do it.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

"This above all: to thine ownself be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." said Will. Max says it better by expanding it to include love. I wonder how many young people have feigned affection. Looking back I think that is a pretty despicable thing to do. I think I have been on both the receiving and the giving end of that. Certainly a vexation to the spirit. Also, love, and life as well, have their ups and downs. Never give up - always look ahead, there are no regrets in that direction. Sorry, another mishmash of quotations. Perennial as the grass says it much much better. You are starting to get it.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

As you get older this one becomes more and more difficult. There are less and less people older than you to take counsel from and the crap that some of these youngsters come up with is impossible to surrender to, never mind gracefully. It is difficult for us baby boomers who, as a generation, have led the way from the sixties with technology, innovation and changing society to take second place to a person who has piercings and pictures all over their body, has multi-coloured hair, wears trousers below the crack of their arse (and as a result walk strangley in an effort to ensure they don't slip any further) as well as the uncertaintity as to which gender or sexual persuasion they are. Not that I have a problem with that - I just don't want it thrust in my face. For years I thought LGBT was some kind of sandwich with lettuce, bacon and tomato in and I worried endlessly as what the G might be. I know I am starting to sound like some doddery old bigot but that is not the case at all. Live and let live I say. Let people do whatever they like as long as they are prepared to take the consequences. Cut bits off or stick bits on I don't care. I apply this principle not only to people who want to change gender but to those women, or men, who walk around with big lips and huge breasts. The only thing I have against homosexual people is the fact that they have hijacked the word gay. Nobody uses the word now in it's original meaning or context. To say "I'm gay" no longer means you are happy. I think that is sad. I guess I get a D minus for this one or is it a G minus.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

Shit happens! Get the idea in your head, prepare for it and when it arrives you will be stronger and more able to ensure you don't stay brown. Probably the first thing to do is turn the fan off. Yes - well.

But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

This is a good one! It is very easy to surmise or imagine what other people are about to do or what they are thinking and as a consequence act inappropriately. Most of my adult life has been taken up with this pointless pastime with, sometimes, disastrous consequences. Now, I wouldn't say that I don't care what people think, we would always like to think that were the case but the reality is somewhat different, but I care less about it and don't let it change my behavior.... too much. A big improvement Smith.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

We all screw up! Get over it and don't beat yourself up about it. The important thing is to discipline yourself not to make the same mistakes again. Probably easier said than done but, as well as 'loud and agressive persons', you can be a vexation to your spirit. That sounds really good Smith.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

I am reminded of some words from a John Lennon song, Imagine. Personally I couldn't stand the bloke but I have to admit he did some good stuff:
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

Yes, we all have a right to be here but we must take responsibility for the mess we are leaving behind us and at least try to do something about it. I guess I feel that nationalism and religion don't help that cause. I have no answers though, nothing seems to work. Now, now Smith don't give up yet.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should

It is definitely not clear to me and who gets to say how it should unfold. A nice thought though. Come on Smith get a grip.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

This is an interesting one in my view. It is a well known fact that I am an atheist and I have said, quite strongly at times, that I felt religion was probably responsible for most of the ills in this world. But, this is not about religion. This is about what you believe in and being true to those beliefs. However, never be uncompromising in those beliefs to the extent of causing hurt. Other people have their beliefs as well and they may not coincide with yours. This is better.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Yes, it is but it is getting more difficult to find the good bits. Look harder!

Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Happiness is a momentary state of mind and generally, floats in and out of your life at odd times. Treasure those moments and realize that, like Nietzsche and his mountain climb, it is all relative and you sometimes have to experience pain and sadness to achieve happiness and peace of mind. Must try harder.

Desiderata - Undoctored

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be careful. Strive to be happy.